Dr. Jane Mutanga-Mutembo, a doctoral student in epidemiology at the University of Georgia College of Public Health, has been awarded the 2015-2016 Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship.
The one-year, renewable grant provides women scientists from developing and emerging countries up to $50,000 to pursue advanced degrees in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field.
A physician, Dr. Mutanga-Mutembo has spent a decade working with children who are living with HIV. The award will help support her research to develop mobile technology to help people living with HIV maintain good adherence to lifelong medication regimens needed to keep the virus suppressed.
“Antiretroviral medication must be taken consistently to make sure the HIV virus is suppressed,” she said. “A lot of young patients are orphans who are being looked after by their grandparents, older siblings, or other relatives. It’s challenging to make sure that they take their medications correctly and daily.”
Dr. Mutanga-Mutembo plans to address this issue by developing mobile technology capable of sending interactive text messages that remind caregivers about when medications need to be taken, while keeping track of the patient’s adherence to treatment.
Mobile phones have become widely available in Zambia and most of Africa. According to current estimates, nearly 78 percent of Zambia’s adult population owns a mobile phone.
By building on m-health solutions currently supported by the Zambian government, Mutanga-Mutembo hopes to be able to offer the service free of charge. If successful, this new technology could be expanded to help patients manage other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes.